Rock art including four animal carvings at Goatscrag rock shelter, 155m north west of Routin Lynn


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Rock art panels at NT97713701, Ford, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland


Ordnance survey map of Rock art including four animal carvings at Goatscrag rock shelter, 155m north west of Routin Lynn
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Rock art panels at NT97713701, Ford, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland
Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A rock art panel comprising four animal carvings on the rear wall of a rock shelter thought to be of late prehistoric or early medieval date.

Reasons for Designation

The later prehistoric, Romano-British or early medieval rock art at Goatscrag rock shelter is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Survival: the four animal depictions comprising the scene are extremely well-defined to the extent that features such as horns or antlers are clearly visible and their relationship to one another is readable; * Documentation: early medieval society is poorly documented and no such evidence is available for the prehistoric and Romano-British societies, hence the value of the archaeological remains of these periods to inform our understanding of their belief systems is particularly important; * Diversity: four individual animals are depicted, which vary in size and detail and allow conclusions regarding their age and gender to be drawn; * Potential: it will inform our knowledge of the societies that carved it, through individual study of the motifs and carving style, and through an increased understanding of their relationship to the rock shelter and to the wider landscape context.


The term prehistoric rock art is most commonly applied to a specific style of carvings created in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age (approximately 3800 BC to 1500 BC). This type of carving shares a limited set of motifs, with numerous variations around the main themes, and is found throughout northern Europe in a wide range of contexts, from isolated natural outcrops to burial cairns and standing stones. The most common form of motifs are the simple ‘cup mark’ (a shallow bowl-shaped depression a few centimetres across); motifs may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown and a wide range of interpretations have been suggested, but they appear to be abstract and held some unknown, possibly sacred meaning for those who created and observed them. Over 5000 separate rock art sites are known in Britain of which more than half are in England and while some examples do occur further south, they are mainly confined to the upland areas of the north.

A single panel at the top of the Goatscrag outcrop was recorded by Stan Beckensall in the later C20 and re-surveyed by the Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Project (NADRAP). The panel is situated immediately above the most westerly of two rock shelters which were subject to partial excavation in the later 1960s. Excavation at the most easterly shelter uncovered evidence of an early Bronze Age cemetery, consisting of several cremated burials, two contained within inverted pottery vessels, and all associated with pits and what were interpreted as post holes. Several pieces of flint were discovered within the overlying topsoil including some tools, one interpreted as a broken microlith indicative of Mesolithic activity. The second rock shelter further to the west was also partially excavated and revealed the presence of four pits with charcoal in their lower fill. About twenty one pieces of small flint were recovered from the overlying top soil.

In 1984 at the east end of the more westerly rock shelter, the carvings of four quadrupeds were identified and recorded. The date of this rock art is uncertain but the well-worn edges of the figures, their creation using a stone tool as opposed to a metal object and the subject matter all argue for an early date. Stylistically, the figures have close parallels with similar figures found in the Scandinavian Bronze Age but given the distance of Northumberland to these main Scandanavian centres and the absence of any other examples in Britain, they are considered unlikely to be contemporary with the early Bronze Age activity known to have been present at the rock shelters. It is considered that the closest parallel for these carvings is to be found in a small group of very rare animal carvings (deer, fish, birds and indeterminate quadrupeds) thought to be of Iron Age, Romano-British or early medieval date found in a zone across Southern Scotland on exposed rock faces and in caves and rock shelters.


The panel (ERA 11) is within the more westerly of the two main rock shelters situated at the foot of Goatscrag. The site provides an extensive viewpoint south of the surrounding landscape including the Cheviot Hills.

The panel faces west and is a smooth, almost vertical surface 1.5m wide and 2m high. It is divided into three parts by natural cracks. The carvings, located at eye level, occupy a space 0.5m by 0.4m; they comprise four animals in profile and the position of the heads suggest that they are all moving or facing the same way. They are arranged in a single line of three with a fourth solitary figure above and a little to the right beyond a natural fissure. The first and leading figure is the largest measuring 105mm long; the head and neck are shown as a vertical element 60mm long projecting from the body at right angles, and a pair of protuberances at the top of its head are considered to represent horns or antlers. The second figure is smaller though similar to the first but lacks any indication of horns or antlers. The third figure at the right end of the group of three differs from the other two in the way the head and neck are represented, which in this case are depicted as an extension to the body beyond the fore limbs. The fourth solitary figure is similar to the third, especially in the treatment of its head, though in this case there is a suggestion of a protuberance to the head. It is considered that the scene shows a small herd of deer or goats led by a mature male and including at least two females.

A second panel (ERA 10) is situated on the top of the crag at about 160m OD immediately above the rock shelter containing the animal carvings. The panel measures about 2.35 m by 0.83m and there are at least two prehistoric cup marks present, one about 8cm to 10cm in diameter and the other slightly smaller.

Extent of scheduling: this is defined as a circle with a diameter of 5m in order to include the rock art panel bearing the animal depictions and the archaeologically sensitive surrounding area. The prehistoric panel comprising a pair of cups is incorporated within the area defined around the animal carvings. A second rock art panel lies further to the west and is the subject of a separate scheduling (Rock art at Goatscrag, 200m north west of Routin Lynn, National Heritage List entry 1418572).


Books and journals
Van Hoek, M A M, Smith, C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana, ser 5 vol xvi' in Rock Carvings at Goatscrag Rock Shelters Northumberland, (1988), 29-35
England's Rock Art, accessed from
Northumberland County Council HER ID: 1962,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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